By Jordan Cohen
A bill introduced in the 2016 General Assembly would, the sponsor hoped, have prevented fraudulent use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.
But the General Assembly adjourned March 12 without taking action on the bill, which would have required recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to show photo identification to obtain groceries. The bill had been introduced by Del. Robert Marshall, a Republican from northern Virginia.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]In December 2015, 202 households in Lexington and 1,140 in Rockbridge County relied on SNAP to pay for groceries. [/pullquote]
Opponents to the bill, who believe it would have posed problems for low-income Virginians, are relieved.
“My view on it is that this is just another way of using politics to construct and reinforce a stereotype of the poor in people’s imaginations, and that stereotype portrays them as conniving, lying, lazy, sub-humans who need to be monitored by us upstanding, virtuous, hardworking, non-poor people,” said Kelly Brotzman, a visiting assistant professor for Washington and Lee’s Shepherd Program.
“We need less and not more of this type of stereotype-construction. It’s disgusting.”
In December 2015, 202 households in Lexington and 1,140 in Rockbridge County relied on SNAP to pay for groceries.
In lieu of paper food stamps, recipients now use EBT cards, which look similar to credit or debit cards.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, instances of EBT fraud have decreased since 1993 from three cents on the dollar to about one cent in 2008.
Shellee Moore, a benefit programs specialist for Rockbridge County social services, says that although she has heard of instances of recipients selling their EBT cards, she was not aware of any cases referred to a fraud investigator.
Although there is no law currently in place that requires a photo ID to use one’s EBT card, the Department of Social Services does require some form of identification in order to receive the card.
“You would have to show that you are who you say you are before you would be issued your card. That is one of the verification requirements as far as being eligible for the SNAP program,” Moore said. “Photo ID is preferred, but we can not require a specific form of identification.”
Among accepted forms of identification, Moore said Social Security cards, birth certificates, voter registration cards, and prisoner release forms have all been accepted for those applying for SNAP benefits.
Moore said that requiring a photo ID might create a stigmatizing experience for those using EBT cards.
“Right now, when a person goes through the checkout line, unless you have seen the EBT card…you don’t know if that person, if they swipe that card at Wal-Mart or Kroger or wherever, if they’re using debit, credit, or EBT,” Moore said. “It would probably create more stigma, and I don’t know that that’s something we want to do to our clients.”
For the working poor, getting to the Department of Motor Vehicles in order to obtain a photo ID may be an obstacle.
“Getting a photo ID is not free,” said Brotzman. “Especially if you have no car to drive, why would you need a driver’s license?”
For now, both Food Lion and Kroger in Lexington take EBT cards without photo ID.